Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: Leaders should 'stop playing games' on roads funding

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called upon GOP leaders in the legislature to stop “screwing around” on finding a roads funding plan. Republicans say they’ve offered multiple solutions Whitmer has rejected. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

Update: Whitmer agrees to delay road funding talks to finish Michigan budget

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called upon Republican leaders in the legislature to “stop playing games” and offer a road-funding solution that will fund necessary infrastructure repairs Wednesday morning. 

Meanwhile, Republican leaders said they plan to move forward with finalizing the state budget without funding for long-term road and bridge fixes after the governor rejected four plans they presented. 

“I’m willing to continue to talk, but we have to pivot and also progress on a budget because the citizens of Michigan deserve the certainty of a budget being done,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said Wednesday. “I can assure you there is no reason other than a desire to create a crisis for even the contemplation of a government shutdown.”

August 29: Michigan House Dem leader says Whitmer’s 45-cent gas tax is probably dead

If Whitmer, Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield don’t come to an agreement on how the state should spend its nearly $60 billion budget before Oct. 1, the government will shut down and any “non-essential” employees will face layoffs. Whitmer has said she’d agree to a temporary continuation budget if negotiations with the GOP leaders are ongoing in good faith.

Speaking to reporters, Whitmer said the proposals Shirkey and Chatfield offered as a solution to fix the state’s crumbling roads and bridges were not “viable,” though she wouldn’t say what they offered and the GOP leaders did not give details when asked, due to what they said was a confidentiality agreement with the governor.

“It’s time for the Republican legislature to get serious, to get back to work and to stop screwing around and get it done,” she said. 

While experts agree $2.5 billion is what it will take to fix the state’s roads and bridges, and that’s still what Whitmer is pushing for, she said she’d be willing to negotiate if Republicans offered a revenue-generating solution that came “anywhere in the range.” Her proposal is a 45-cent-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax, which would be constitutionally dedicated to roads and would give Michigan the highest gas tax in the nation. 

“It’s time for them to offer up something that is a legitimate alternative. Saying no is not leadership,” she said.

Shirkey said the plans he and Chatfield have presented to the governor all “included material new revenue.”

“They also included reprioritization of current spending and a refinancing of certain state debt obligations,” he said. 

He suggested the governor should consider the West Michigan Policy Forum solution of issuing a 30-year, $10 billion bond to fund the teacher pension system, freeing up as much as $900 million annually to replace lost sales tax revenue for schools and local government under a House proposal to eliminate the state’s 6 percent sales tax on gasoline. 

Whitmer said Wednesday that was not an option: “They’re fiscally bad ideas and taking money out of education to fill potholes is not a real solution.”

Teachers and children have been “starved and stolen of the resources they need to be successful,” Whitmer said. 

“A legitimate alternative has got to be bringing new revenue to the conversation about how we can meet our infrastructure needs. It cannot be at the expense of our education system, or of our kids, or of our pensioners.”

Earlier this week, Chatfield told WJR-AM that no plan presented to Whitmer would cut education funding. 

Chatfield called upon Whitmer Wednesday to “drop her insistence on a 45-cent gas tax” and continue budget negotiations separately from a roads funding solution. “We cannot hold the budget hostage because of her desire to tax every driver in the state.”

The car insurance deal the three made earlier this year was reached because “we were all at the table, in confidence, having good faith negotiations,” Chatfield said.

All leaders agreed they’ll continue to talk, but each side indicated it’s up to the other to step up to negotiations. 

“The fact that there is still a dialogue is probably a good thing,” Whitmer said.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Kathi Geukes
Thu, 08/29/2019 - 10:40am

She's right...we need the Rethugs in our state to stop playing games and coming up with lame "alternatives" to her plan and get it together...or lose their jobs!! It's time to fix the roads and designate that the money only goes for road and bridge repair!!!!

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 10:47am

"He suggested the governor should consider the West Michigan Policy Forum solution"

Yes, let's listen to the handmaidens of the American aristocracy. Sure, all of their policies have been disastrous, and we suffer in the fallout created by their blind idolatry of Libertarian ideology, but this time surely the capitalist class has the interest of the public good squarely in the forefront of their mind

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 11:21am

It sounds like Ms. Whitmer is the intransigent one in this discussion. Other than saying the republican side of the debate has offered alternatives, by agreement, those alternatives are not being made public by either side yet.

Let's make up our own set of alternatives for discussion about this article.

1) Add the 45 cent gas tax, as it only affects those on a limited budget and those that have to drive long distances for everything, like in the UP.

2) Take the money from somewhere else in the budget like Medicaid, as it only affects the 20 something percent on that program.

3) Do nothing, as many use Uber or Lyft or don't travel much so it won't hurt their car expenses.

4) Spread the pain to everyone with a proportionate reduction in all budgets to be used for repairs.

OK, this is so easy. Which one do you want?

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 3:38pm

How about we amend the state constitution to allow for progressive taxation and have the ultra wealthy ghouls who have sacked the state for decades pitch in?

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 4:31pm

And what with all these bicycles liens? they pay no road taxes>>>
And WHY do we have to keep paying for bad roads>>> I-696 is under repairs built last year!!
And is it not in our constitutions that any new taxes or any raise in taxes HAS TO BE VOTED by the people??? 'What is needs it an Audit to find were all the billions in road money went????

Kevin Grand
Thu, 08/29/2019 - 12:13pm

"Playing games'???

This is coming from a governor who wants to use 40% of her proposed gas tax to prop up other areas in the budget(NOT ROADS).

This is from a governor who hasn't addressed the reason why Michigan Roads are so poorly built (i.e. I-696).

This is from a governor who is tone-deaf when it comes to public support of her gas tax.

I would absolutely love to see them place Gov. Whitmer's gas tax on the ballot for Michigan Taxpayers to decide.

Just don't be very surprised when is goes down in flames worse than Prop 1 back in 2015.

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 7:59pm

$40Billion in Tax Expenditures (credits, deductions and exemptions). Can’t we find a few billion here to fix the roads?

Barry Visel
Thu, 08/29/2019 - 8:12pm

$40 Billion each year in tax credits, tax deductions and tax incentives. And you wonder where the money is? Just eliminate a few tax expenditures and the problem is solved.

Barry Visel
Thu, 08/29/2019 - 8:12pm

$40 Billion each year in tax credits, tax deductions and tax incentives. And you wonder where the money is? Just eliminate a few tax expenditures and the problem is solved.